Debi Metcalf?whose own horse was stolen in 1997?is passionate about the topic of horse theft, a difficult topic these days. Yes, it's a down economy. Yes, you do hear about horses people can't give away. And, yes, horses are being stolen across the country on a regular basis. One has little to do with the other, Debi maintains.
She says it's as important as ever to remain vigilant and take precautions, so that your horses never rank among those numbers. Debi?s group, Stolen Horse International Inc., seeks to create awareness and to help bring stolen horses home. Its website, Net Posse offers some great theft prevention tips. Identifying your horse?both as a theft deterrent and as a way to recover a stolen horse?is first and foremost.
?Freeze branding and micro-chipping are the two I like the most,? Debi says, ?preferably a combination of the two.?
A freeze brand is visible, and thieves don't like horses that stand out in a crowd. However, if your stolen horse is found in a different state, brands can be difficult to trace back to you.
A microchip--though not visible--is the most reliable way to trace a horse, as its number will be recorded in permanent databases, including AQHA?s database.
Stolen Horse International offers both a microchip kit and signage, warning potential thieves that horses on your property carry permanent identification on board.
Lip tattooing and hoof branding are other options. Hoof branding is a temporary ID that involves the use of a commercially available kit that allows you to sear numbers or letters into the outer hoof capsule. Think of using the front hooves to write out your phone number or ZIP code, which would at least tell authorities what vicinity your horse came from.
Debi says the hoof branding only lasts about six months as the hooves grow out, but it is a great solution in areas prone to natural disasters, to identify a horse during hurricane season, for example. The branding, if done correctly, does not damage the hoof capsule.
The other thing Debi highly recommends is a community watch program. If you have neighbors, let them know who?s allowed to be on your property handling your horses.
- Keep a close eye on your horse at public events. Horses are often taken from these events.
- Post signs on your property or stall doors when boarding or at horse events ? ?no trespassing? signs, security system signs, etc.
- When stabling your horse, do not give complete information on the breeding of the horse on the stall door. This may attract thieves to pick your horse because of the bloodlines, and Debi warns that she is seeing better-quality horses being stolen lately.
- Pay attention to service people on your property. Use your cell phone camera to take pictures of vehicle tags and people, and save them for future use. Let strangers know why you are recording the information. They probably will not come back.
How AQHA Can Help
Stolen Horse International recommends keeping photos of your horse and details on his or her markings. When you register a foal with AQHA, you can have either photos or hand-drawn markings included on the registration certificate. Either way, it's a great means to positively identify your horse.
La Donna Wilkinson, AQHA?s senior director of registration, says that usually two to three photos and/or drawn markings are used on each certificate, and close-ups of any brands are also included.
If you brand an American Quarter Horse that's already registered, AQHA will add that notation to his or her papers at no charge, and that's something La Donna highly recommends, ?especially if that's the only identifying mark that horse has.?
AQHA will also add microchip numbers to the registration certificates at no charge, and scars can be added, as well.
While horse theft is a rare occurrence, it's important to remember to notify the police and report the claim to your insurance carrier immediately. The sooner a police report is filed, the sooner the authorities can start looking for your horse. If your horse has a Coggins test, it will show the horse's markings which will be helpful to the police in finding him/her. If you don't have a Coggins, consider having photos of all four sides of your horse on file.